Medical Marijuana Patient Protection Act Introduced in Congress

April 18, 2008
Washington, D.C. -- Congressional Representative Barney Frank (D-MA) introduced the "Medical Marijuana Patient Protection Act," HR 5842, yesterday, a bill co-sponsored by Representatives Maurice Hinchey (D-NY), Sam Farr (D-CA), Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), and Ron Paul (R-TX). The act would change federal policy on medical marijuana in a number of ways. Specifically, HR 5842 would reclassify marijuana from a Schedule I drug, which cannot be prescribed, to a Schedule II drug, which would recognize the medical value of marijuana and create a regulatory framework for the FDA to begin a drug approval process for marijuana. The act would also prevent interference by the federal government in any local or state run medical marijuana program.

Similar versions of HR 5842 have been introduced in prior Congressional terms, but have never made it out of committee. "It's time that the federal government take this issue seriously," said Caren Woodson, Government Affairs Director with Americans for Safe Access (ASA), a nationwide medical marijuana advocacy group working with Mr. Frank and other Members of Congress to change federal policy. "By disregarding marijuana's medical efficacy, and undermining efforts to implement state laws, the federal government is willfully placing hundreds of thousands of sick Americans in harms way."

In addition to rescheduling marijuana under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), HR 5842 would provide protection from the CSA and the federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FDCA) for qualified patients and caregivers in states that have legalized the use of medical marijuana. Specifically, the act prevents the CSA and FDCA from prohibiting or restricting: (1) a physician from prescribing or recommending marijuana for medical use, (2) an individual from obtaining, possessing, transporting within their state, manufacturing, or using marijuana in accordance with their state law, (3) an individual authorized under State law from obtaining, possessing, transporting within their state, or manufacturing marijuana on behalf of an authorized patient, or (4) an entity authorized under local or State law to distribute medical marijuana to authorized patients from obtaining, possessing, or distributing marijuana to such authorized patients.

In December, U.S. House Judiciary Chair John Conyers stated publicly his concern about the tactics being used by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and promised oversight hearings. Since then, several California mayors have written to Conyers expressing their support for hearings, including the mayors of San Francisco, Oakland, West Hollywood, and Santa Cruz. Opposition to federal interference in state medical marijuana laws has also come from multiple city councils, members of the California Board of Equalization and the state legislature, as well as New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson.

Further information:
Medical Marijuana Patient Protection Act, HR 5842: http://americansforsafeaccess.org/downloads/HR5842.pdf
ASA Fact Sheet on the Escalation of Harmful DEA Tactics: http://americansforsafeaccessnow.org/downloads/dea_escalation.pdf
December 2007 Statement by House Judiciary Chair John Conyers: http://judiciary.house.gov/newscenter.aspx?A=889
Letter from San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom to Conyers: http://www.americansforsafeaccessnow.org/downloads/Newsom_Letter_to_Conyers.pdf
Letter from NM Governor Richardson to President GW Bush: http://safeaccessnow.org/downloads/richardson_letter.pdf

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